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"True, too true, my lord:
If one by one you wedded all the world,
Or, from the all that are, took something good
To make a perfect woman, she you kill'd
His reply displays the very prostration of self-abasement :
She I kill'd! I did so; but thou strik'st me
Sorely to say I did; it is as bitter
Upon thy tongue as in my thought; now, good now,
It is observable that the only person in the play who encounters the severity of retributive justice is the lord Antigonus; and we scarcely regret his fate since he lent himself to the king's cruelty (however unwillingly and by oath) to leave the infant Perdita on the desert sea-shore of a strange country; a savage hire, and the wages he receives are as dispiteous, for he is devoured by a beast. This scene, which first introduces the old shepherd and his son, is distinguished by that mixture of the horrible and the ludicrous which no one ventures upon but Dame Nature and Shakespeare. The old man, who has been wandering about the sea-shore in the storm, searching for a stray sheep, stumbles upon the babe, and in his astonishment at the circumstance, calls out to his son, who immediately echoes his summons :— What, art so near? [says the old shepherd.] If thou 'lt see a thing to talk on when thou art dead and rotten, come hither. What ailest thou, man?
"Clown. I have seen two such sights by sea and by land! but I am not to say it is a sea, for it is now the sky; betwixt the firmament and it you cannot thrust a bodkin's point."
It will be remembered how this same effect of a storm is described in Othello, where the persons talking are gentlemen and scholars. One speaks of the "wind-shak'd surge
with high and monstrous mane;" and the other speaks of the "main and the aerial blue becoming an indistinct regard.”
The clown, with his rustic imagination, has none but homely comparisons, and afterwards he talks of the "yeast and froth as you'd thrust a cork into a hogshead." These are minutiæ of consistency that have been often alluded to.
The Clown goes on :—
"Oh, the most piteous cry of the poor souls! Sometimes to see 'em, and not to see 'em: now the ship boring the moon with her main-mast. And then for the land-service,-to see how the bear tore out his shoulder-bone-and how he cried to me for help, and said he was Antigonus-a nobleman!"
"What care these roarers for the name of king?" says the Boatswain in the "Tempest;" but how horribly natural is this scene! The fact which was uppermost in the Clown's mind -the tearing up of the man's shoulder-blade—he speaks of first, and without any preface, and afterwards describes his name and quality. Then he goes on :—
"But to make an end of the ship, to see how the sea flapdragoned it; but first, how the poor souls roared, and the sea mocked them, and how the poor gentleman roared, and the bear mocked him, both roaring louder than the sea or weather. "Shep. Name of mercy, when was this, boy?
"Clown. Now, now! I haven't winked since I saw these sights; the men are not yet cold under water, nor the bear half dined on the gentleman; he's at it now!"
Well, they turn to the infant Perdita, and lifting up their hands and eyes at the golden treasure that Antigonus has left with her, the old man proposes to his son to take the "next way home;" and here Shakespeare cannot close the scene without a parting touch of rustic humanity, which he puts into the mouth of the Clown :
"Go you the next way with your findings; I'll go see if the bear be gone from the gentleman, and how much
he hath eaten. They are never curst [mischievous] but when they are hungry. If there be any of him left I will bury it."
This, in itself, is a trifling incident to notice, but a natural one, for the common people have a reverence, even to superstition, for the decencies of sepulture.
Among the subordinate characters in "The Winter's Tale," the noblemen about the court of Leontes do not offer any distinguishing characteristic worth dwelling upon, unless it be the unparallelled one of their all taking side with their brother-courtier, and against the king! Camillo is a fine honest fellow, who mainly assists to bring the estranged parties to a union; and there is a naturally and artisticallycontrived conversation among some "Gentlemen" in the 2d scene of the 5th Act, who are describing to each other the meeting of the two kings, the discovery of Perdita to be the daughter of Leontes, and, in short, the hurrying of the plot to its climax of efflorescence. The whole dialogue is perfectly graphic; and immediately upon the heels of it we have the introduction of the old shepherd and his son, who have received honourable preferment for their faithful nurture of the little princess-a capital specimen of low comedy. The bumpkins absolutely reel under their promotion and fine clothes. The son talks of the "kings and princes-our kindred"-and, like a true lout, he does not see that they have condescended to him, but he instantly rushes on to their level, and so, with delightful humour, he rattles away :
"I was a gentleman born before my father, for the king's son took me by the hand and called me brother, and the two kings called my father brother, and then the prince my brother called my father father, and so we wept, and there was the first gentleman-like tears that ever we shed."
Mopsa, one of the country wenches-and she and Dorcas are sisters of a class-is a type of that fraternity of women
both high and low-who have just sufficient brains to see their own mercenary interest in all they do, and not one jot else; who are just so acute as to turn to gain, to profit, all that they possess, while to their truest and most real advantages and privileges they are as obtusely blind as earthworms. A trinket, a bauble, engrosses such a woman's soul to the exclusion of aught beside. She will go through any amount of meanness to wheedle a man into purchasing it for her, while, with it, he may beguile her of any amount of unworthy submission. The pedlar's knacks and gaudy trash absorb Mopsa's whole gloating vision; she never ceases pestering her swain to "buy" for her; she even gives up the darling delight of bickering and squabbling with Dorcas for the dearer delight of coaxing all she can out of her softskulled gallant. That he finds his account in "treating" her we gather from her own obtuse betrayals. In Mopsa's eagerness for the pedlar's tawdry laces and ribbons, with the fool's price she blindly pays for them, believing that she gets them for "nothing"-that eternal pitfall of the fool-buyer!"Getting a bargain for nothing!"-in Mopsa's cupidity we have a symbol of those of her sex who, for a shawl, a bracelet, or a silk dress, sacrifice their dignity of spirit, their honesty of truth, their self-respect. They calculate that it costs them only a few fawning words—“ only!" when in these are comprised the abandonment of women's just claims to be the friend and "equal" of man, which they are everlastingly talking about, and using such miserable means to accomplish.
And now talk we of that prince of quicksilver rogues -Master Autolycus. O thou type of all the nimblefingered race that have plied in their vocation since the gallies and the gallows were instituted to teach men the principles of equitable adjustment, and accurately to know the distinction between "meum and tuum," and not to confound and misapply the "golden rule of proportion."
Master Autolycus !-that rogue of rogues! that archrogue! that knave of knaves! that inexhaustible wag of a pedlar! that scampering rip of a wayfaring huckster! With what a light hand he disposes of momentous considerations! with what an easy style he settles questions of conscience! "Beating and hanging [he says] are terrors to me;—for the life to come, I sleep out the thought of it." How skimmingly he relates that, "having flown over many knavish professions, he settled down in rogue;" and he is an adept in the profession he has settled down in, having made its principles his earnest study, and having taken his degree, F.F.D., (“Professor and Doctor of Thieving,") thus he delivers to them "ex cathedra"-"To have an open ear, a quick eye, and a nimble hand is necessary for a cutpurse; a good nose is requisite also to smell out work for the other senses."
His ineffable disinterestedness in refusing donations is on a par with his dexterity in "raising the supplies;" for, upon having helped himself to what he wanted from the country fellow's pocket, what ludicrous earnestness, and what sincerity, too, in declining the proffered bounty:-" Offer me no money, I pray you; that kills my heart." What a zest, what intense relish he has in trickery! and what solemn horror of rectitude! when he has filched the shepherd's purse, exclaiming after him:-"I'll be with you at your sheep-shearing, too. If I make not this cheat bring out another, and the shearers prove sheep, let me be unrolled, and my name put in the book of virtue." And then, at the prospect of mischief, he falls into a merry song, for very jollity of heart; the fun of the mischief being his "primum mobile"- his main principle of action.
He has a positive and unmitigated contempt for right and justice, as being indeed poor and very shallow affairs-and dull;-so, with what a twinkle of the eye, and irrepressible drollery beneath all, he shows that the humour of the thing is